Special Event – Alchemy on the Amstel – 19 november 2012

Alchemy on the Amstel meets Leyden’s Luxuriance and the Bibliotheca Pharmacia.

On 19 November some 65 people attended an afternoon devoted to 3 related exhibitions currently showing in Leiden and in Amsterdam. Ritman Library director & librarian Esther Oosterwijk-Ritman, who introduced the afternoon’s speakers, emphasized what she said in her preface to Alchemy on the Amstel, the guide to the exhibition: ‘The exhibitions in Leiden and in Amsterdam complement each other, and it is our hope that visitors to any of these 3 exhibitions may be inspired to visit the other two.’

Guest speakers from Museum Boerhaave and Leiden University, Annelore Scholten and Kasper van Ommen, took the audience on a wonderful and concise trip through the 2 exhibitions in Leiden: Leyden’s Luxuriance (Boerhaave) and Bibliotheca Pharmacia (University Library Leiden). The afternoon kicked off with a presentation by Dr. Peter J. Forshaw of the Center for the History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents at the University of Amsterdam. He explained the connections between early modern Alchemy and the Hermetic world view and offered some wonderful samples of alchemical imagery to a delighted public. Hester Albach, writer and biographer of Amsterdam’s own ‘chymical physician’ Theodor Kerckring, presented a fascinating talk on her subject, who was once a fellow student of Spinoza at the Latin school of Franciscus van den Enden. Joost Ritman, founder of the library, kept the audience waiting with bated breath to finally produce a truly beautiful 16th-century panel showing an alchemical ‘triumphant chariot’. The afternoon was concluded with a visual tour of some of the highlights in the exhibition by Dr. Cis van Heertum, who curated the exhibition.

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‘Alchemy on the Amstel’ will be running from October 15 2012 through May 17 2013 in conjunction with Leyden’s Luxuriance, Green Discoveries in the Golden Age, on show in Museum Boerhaave from October 11 2012 through May 5 2013. ‘Alchemy on the Amstel’ and ‘Leyden’s Luxuriance’ run parallel to an exhibition about the history of Pharmacy on show in de Universiteitsbibliotheek Leiden from October 5 2012 through December 31 2012. The exhibition deals with rare books on botany, pharmacopeia and books on the Swiss physician and alchemist Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim or Paracelsus.

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